The youth vaping epidemic sparked chiefly by JUUL Labs is still going strong, as evidenced by a rise in the number of students vaping in South Carolina high schools. Now the state’s Lexington 1 school district has joined other school systems throughout the country in holding the leading vape maker accountable for pedaling its products to minors.
On October 2, the Lexington 1 school district joined other school districts in a class action lawsuit against JUUL pending in a California federal court. The school district is the first in South Carolina to join the sweeping lawsuit.
According to The State, Lexington 1 school district joined the lawsuit after data showed a rise in the number of vaping high school students in recent years. Vaping nicotine has surged in popularity among teens throughout the Palmetto State and across the nation, unraveling decades of progress made in getting kids to stop smoking.
Youth vaping in South Carolina
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 22% of South Carolina high school students use tobacco products, but a recent survey showed that 39.5% of high school students have used vaping products, and 22% of them vaped within the last 30 days. The same data also indicates that 25% of high school seniors regularly vape. High school students reported using JUUL more than any other vape product.
The Lexington 1 school district alleges that school staff must spend more time during school hours addressing the vaping problem, which takes time away from class instruction.
The lawsuit Lexington 1 school district joined alleges that JUUL designed its products to attract kids and then aggressively marketed them to a youth market. JUUL made pods containing smooth nicotine salts that delivered more nicotine than conventional cigarettes without the harsh hit and came in a range of sweet flavors. The devices themselves resemble a flash drive and can be charged on a computer’s USB port, allowing students to hide them easily in plain sight.
Lobbyists and their legislators
The school district’s decision to join the class action against JUUL puts it at odds with several local and state officials who gave JUUL generous tax breaks and other incentives to open a new assembly and packaging plant in Lexington.
Seventeen months ago, JUUL promised Lexington officials its presence would boost the local economy by $125 million and create 500 jobs. But according to the Lexington County Chronicle, the vape maker’s plans have shrunk to a $102 million investment and 10 jobs.
Nonetheless, JUUL lobbyists appear to be busy in Lexington County and around the state capital. According to the Chronicle:
The company has ramped up lobbying efforts, too. There are six registered Juul lobbyists in the Midlands, according to the South Carolina Ethics Commission, as well as an employee PAC that has donated to a dozen state attorney general campaigns, including that of S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. Recognizing the critical threat to young people ensnared by nicotine addiction, and its effect on our nation’s educational system, our firm has also joined other nationally recognized law firms to represent school districts and public entities across the country in the fight to stop the school vaping crisis.